Posts Tagged With: opinion

Book Review: The Welsh Fasting Girl

In the mid- to late-1800s, a phenomenon known as “fasting girls” were documented in the Americas and Europe. These young girls, usually preteens, claimed that they could survive for long periods of time without eating.

During the Middle Ages, some saints were said to have been able to survive without nourishment. Because of this precedence, many of the Victorian-age faithful regarded these fasting girls as miraculous and saw this self-starvation as a sign of sanctity. As a result, these young girls became spectacles, put on display, often for a price and always at a cost.

Thankfully, the fascination with fasting girls faded. Doctors eventually determined that these girls had suffered from anorexia nervosa, an eating disorder where food intake is restricted as a way to cope with negative emotions.

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Book Review: The Baggage Handler

Many of us have been there at least once in our lives. Standing in a crowded airport, patiently waiting for our suitcases. Meanwhile, lots of look-alike luggage slowly passes by, piece by piece. All around are other passengers, hustling and bustling, grabbing their possessions and hurrying on. And still, we wait and we wait and we wait. Where the heck is that darn suitcase?

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Book Review: The Abolitionist’s Daughter

Union and Confederate soldiers, abolitionists and slaveholders: They are all found in the branches of our families’ trees.

As a child, I would sit at the knee of my Great-Uncle Roy, listening to stories about Taylor-Thomas kin who fought in the War Between the States. I heard tales of how families were torn apart because of differing ideologies and how my own family experienced this strife when two brothers chose different sides. Although both men survived the war, the battle continued for decades, and supposedly neither spoke to the other again.

As an adult, I have discovered similar stories in other branches. In the Watts-Stark line, Stark and Bailey ancestors defied their South Carolinian and Virginian parents, embraced abolition, manumitted or emancipated their own slaves, and moved away from these slave states to the border states of Missouri and Kentucky. Other family members in both my maternal and paternal lines were active abolitionists. Several were Quakers, whose faith condemn slavery as both ethically and religiously wrong, while others, both above and below the Mason-Dixon Line, did their part to help slaves on their flights to freedom, providing food, shelter, and safe passage through their property. Because of these family members, I knew that not all white Southerners supported slavery.

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Book Review: Almost Home

In the summer of 1929, industrial production declined, and unemployment rose, leaving stock prices much higher than their actual value. In addition, wages were low and consumer debt as high. Because of drought and falling food prices, farmers were struggling. Finally, banks were unable to liquidate many of their larger loans.

As a result, the American economy entered a mild recession. Consumer spending slowed; unsold goods began to accumulate. Despite this recession, stock prices continued to rise to levels well above expected future earnings. All of this came to a head in October 1929. The time of prosperity, dubbed the Roaring Twenties, was brought to a screeching halt when the U.S. stock market crashed, wiping out fortunes and plunging the United States (and the rest of the world) into an economic depression. For the next ten years, the Great Depression impacted people all over America, leaving many destitute.

Then, starting in 1930, farmers in the Midwest and Southern Great Plains watched as their crops were destroyed by longtime drought. Massive dust storms began about a year later. By 1934, about 35 million acres of formerly cultivated land was rendered useless for farming, while another 125 million acres was slowly being stripped of its nutrient-rich soil. Although regular rainfall returned to the region by the end of 1939, thereby ending the Dust Bowl, the agricultural value of the land did not recover, forcing many farmers to leave their livelihood.

The Great Depression effectively came to an end on 7 December 1941, when the United States entered the Second World War. Almost overnight, production for the war effort began to boom, increasing industrial output by 96 percent. Approximately 17 million new civilian jobs were created.

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Book Review: Lost Roses

1914: Tensions are rising; war is in the air. It is during this uncertain time in history that Lost Roses, written by Martha Hall Kelly, begins. Despite the simmering unrest swirling through Europe, Eliza Ferriday, a New York socialite, travels to St. Petersburg, Russia to visit with her friends, Sofya and Luna Streshnayva, cousins of Tsar Nicholas II. All seems to be going well until, more than 1,500 miles away, something horrible happens, sending shock waves throughout Europe.

On 28 June 1914, in Sarajevo, Bosnia, Archduke Franz Ferdinand—heir to the Austro-Hungarian Empire—and his wife Sophie are assassinated by a Serbian nationalist desperate to end Austro-Hungarian rule of Bosnia and Herzegovina. Austria-Hungary is incensed and wants to strike back. However, because Russia is an ally of Serbia, Austria-Hungary appeals to Kaiser Wilhelm II, who on 5 July 1914, pledges Germany’s support. After securing this agreement, Austria-Hungary issues an ultimatum to Serbia. In response, Serbia mobilizes its army and asks Russia for assistance. Then, on 28 July 1914, exactly one month after the Archduke’s murder, Austria-Hungary declares war on Serbia, and the tenuous peace between Europe’s countries collapses. Within a week, Belgium, France, Great Britain, Russia, and Serbia are pitted against Austria-Hungary and Germany. World War I has begun.

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